EAST OF WEST #5
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Nick Dragotta
Release Date: August 14, 2013
Since issue #1, Hickman has been teasing us with vague flashbacks into the characters’ lives. This month’s East of West blows the floodgates wide open with the past being put on the forefront for the issue.
A complete 180 in tone from the action packed and explosive issue #4. In fact, there is little violence or death in the book at all this month. East of West takes a breather for the first time in its short existence and lets the characters relax, if only for a little bit. The relationship between Death and Xiaolian is explored and makes for a very interesting back story. They are, naturally, complicated together, but are both written with such power behind their words that it makes the series so addicting to read. The feeling of power surrounding the characters has always been a strong point of the comic, and issue #5 perfects it. There is also another underlying subplot that sets up the next arc. With so many moving parts so wonderfully balanced, the second arc could go down as one of the best of the year.
The storytelling is extremely refreshing. While the themes, characters, and back story may come off as complex, the plot is simple and satisfying. There are no hidden tricks or quick turns of events. Death, and the audience, know where he is going, and the enemies know that too. Everything is laid out and the tension doesn’t come from “oh, what could happen next” but from the inevitability of the encounter. Considering Death is the main character, it’s extremely fitting.
Dragotta is nothing but excellent in this issue. The detail and design are what make sci-fi stories stand out among the masses, and East of West is chock full of both. To go from the tranquil gardens of New Shanghai, to the cold metal of the futuristic lair is a treat to look at. There are so many hints of culture in each panel put into the character design and scenery that they go a long way in also telling the story. The splash page at the end of the comic will be iPhone, computer, and tablet backgrounds for a long time to come. It’s beautiful.
This series continues to be the complete package. While issue #5 may not have had everything people have begun to expect in a Jonathan Hickman comic, it still was the perfect bridge between arcs and added so much depth to the character pool. It’s tough to say that East of West is the best ongoing on the market right now, considering its main competition is also out this week. *cough* Saga *cough*. But what I can say is that East of West is the best new ongoing of 2013 and it would be a shame if you didn’t at least try it on your pull list for a few months.